The Newport-Mesa Unified School District board has decided to appoint a replacement for outgoing member David Brooks.
Trustees started the appointment process this week to fill the upcoming vacancy in the Estancia High School zone.
Brooks, a longtime district trustee, announced earlier this month that he plans to step down March 11, citing time constraints and frequent travel with a charitable organization.
The unanimous vote to begin the process came after much discussion among trustees Tuesday evening regarding the best way to handle filling the post.
In collaboration with Supt. Fred Navarro, the board will begin putting together an application form for potential candidates this week.
The board will conduct candidate interviews at an open meeting and vote on the appointment after the public has had a chance to respond.
Trustees are held to a 60-day timeline for appointing a new board member. If they fail to hire someone in that time period, the seat will remain vacant until the November election.
The board also had the option of deciding not to appoint a candidate, which would have left the seat open until the election.
The majority of trustees shared the same sentiment as Trustee Martha Fluor, who adamantly opposed keeping the seat unfilled.
"It leaves the Estancia zone open without board representation," she said.
Whoever is appointed would face election in November, she said.
Several trustees, including Brooks, were appointed to the board before subsequently being elected.
Trustee Katrina Foley raised concerns about an appointment, arguing that incumbents often have an unfair advantage in elections.
"They get an edge because they're in the inner-circle now," she said. "It's the board giving an unfair advantage to an individual."
She asserted that it also takes the voters out of the process, which "is not what our democracy is intended to do."
Foley suggested that the board prohibit its appointee from running in the November election — an idea that did not garner support from fellow trustees.
Kimberly Claytor, president of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers, spoke in favor of leaving the seat vacant until November.
"I think elections are really healthy for communities," she said. "Not only do we get to learn about the candidates, we also get to learn what we think about the issues and start having dialogue about the issues."
Foley, who represents the Costa Mesa High School zone, also announced during the Tuesday meeting that she will not run for reelection in November. Instead, she will join the race for a seat on Costa Mesa City Council.